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Filling the skills gap to build a successful career

After completing her undergraduate degree, Fay Zhao obtained her first full-time job in a field unrelated to her studies. She recognized the gap between her existing skills and knowledge, and what she would need in order to be successful in her new career.

Hoping to build her knowledge and obtain an industry-recognized certification without giving up her job, Fay completed Conestoga's Global Business Management graduate certificate program though part- time studies.

We recently had the opportunity to speak with Fay about her journey with Conestoga and how it has helped expand her knowledge and build her career.

What would you describe as some of the strengths
you found in your program?Faye Zhao.jpg

Flexible schedule options and smaller classes were definitely the biggest strengths. The learning atmosphere is different in small-class environments where students are encouraged to reflect on their own study and work experience. In addition to gaining real-world perspective from highly qualified faculty members

who have extensive work experience in the subjects they teach, I was also able to learn from my classmates who work in the same field. Their insights included new ideas and more effective ways of approaching and completing tasks.

What was your reason for registering in this program?

I wanted to acquire applicable knowledge that I can use immediately at work.  Continuing education is also a great way to further develop core business competencies.

Did you complete your courses through in-class or online study?

I have taken both in-class and online courses, and I found both delivery options great.

What was your initial perception of online learning? Did it change after your experience?

My initial perception of online learning was that I would have to do everything on my own. After finishing two online courses at Conestoga, my perception changed. Instructors were very accessible and they responded to questions very quickly. The online portal helped me stay connected. Group assignments and case studies provided opportunities to connect with fellow classmates who share similar interests or work in the same field. Online classes are a convenient alternative when there are time constraints or other commitments. They offer flexibility and require no travel time.

What positive outcomes have come from continuing your education?

Through continuing my education, I expanded my knowledge and was able to apply my new learning to work. Most importantly, I experienced a feeling of personal fulfillment every time I successfully completed a course.

How were you able to fit the course-work into your day-to- day life?

It was relatively easy for me. Learning has always been an important part of my day- to-day life. When I consider something important, I will find time for it.

If you could share advice with others considering Conestoga's programs and courses, what would it be?

There is always something new and something interesting to learn. Continuing Education is not only for job-related needs or skills development; it is also a great way to learn about subjects of personal interest. Conestoga offers a wide range of programs and courses and a variety of learning options. You are sure to find a program or course that fits your needs.

Do you plan on furthering your development by enrolling in other part-time courses with Conestoga?

Definitely! Learning something new is always fun and rewarding, and it keeps me motivated.


Conestoga College wishes to thank Fay for sharing her experience.

Turning a hobby into a career

Sam Nafziger had worked in a variety of jobs - in an office setting, for a home healthcare company, in a butcher shop and as a personal trainer in a gym - but none of those roles gave him a sense of fulfillment, so he thought about going back to school to find a new career. With the guidance of his father, Sam decided to explore the possibility of entering Trades Training at Conestoga.

Building and creating at home was something Sam thoroughly enjoyed. Although the thought of turning his hobby into a career was nerve-racking, he followed his dad's advice and registered in Gas Technician courses through Continuing Education. Entering this field allowed him to further his personal interests while being paid to learn something he really enjoyed.

Winter Catalogue Cover

We recently had the opportunity to speak with Sam about his journey with Conestoga and how it has helped create new opportunities for his new career.

What would you describe as some of the strengths you found in these courses?

The biggest strength I found was the variety of classmates. While a few were making a career change, many were already experienced within the trades industry. The practical knowledge of my classmates provided a variety of views on the coursework.

How did your instructors and these courses prepare you for the real world in this industry?

My instructor Mike continuously shared his personal experience in the field. He took the time to relate the course material to his real-world experience and encouraged my classmates and me to do the same. This was valuable as it bridged the gap between real world and textbook in a way I hadn't seen before.

What positive outcomes have come from continuing your education?

The trades industry fits my personal hobby background well. Where I was unsatisfied and unfulfilled with my work previously, I am now able to stand back at the end of the day and say, "I did this. I built this."

How were you able to fit the course work into your day-to-day life?

My courses were in the evening and during the week which allowed me to complete my courses on my own time, not interfering with everyday life.

Sam shared some advice with others considering Conestoga's part-time programs and courses:

"Pursue your career aspirations. The staff and courses at Conestoga have helped me to get into a career I now enjoy every day."

Education for Everyday Life

When Rachel Hillis completed Grade 12, she decided to take a break from the classroom.

 Rachel wasn't certain of her career path, and although she wanted to pursue her education at some point, she struggled to find the right fit that would allow her to continue to work and dance. When she found out about Conestoga's part-time, online ed2go courses, which offer the flexibility and choice she was looking for, Rachel made the decision to pursue her passion for learning and continue her education.ce-fall2015.jpg

Her sister Julia, inspired by Rachel's success, also decided to pursue ed2go courses through Conestoga. "I liked the variety of courses available, the cost, and the fact that I would still be able to work and travel while I continued my education," she stated.

Rachel and Julia have now completed a number of Conestoga's 6-week, instructorled and interactive online ed2go courses, including: Achieving Success with Difficult People, Get Paid to Travel, Leadership and Speed Spanish.

What would you describe as some of the strengths you found in taking courses through ed2go?

Rachel: Taking courses through ed2go allowed me to work, dance and spend time with my friends and family, as well as travel. I was able to plan time to complete the two weekly lessons, and could learn at my own pace. I found that I could retain the lessons quite easily, and never felt intimidated. This in turn made me feel quite confident when it came to doing the next lessons and the final exam.

What were your perceptions about online education?

Julia: My sister's experience helped me to develop a very positive perception of online education. I knew that the courses were not only convenient, but challenging as well.

What was your reasoning for choosing to study online versus a traditional classroom setting? Rachel: I loved the idea of being able to work and think things through on my own. I also appreciated the fact that I could take a wide variety of courses that appealed to me and noto be committed to one specific area of learning. I enjoyed doing the courses in my own space, along with having time for my own personal engagements.

What positive outcomes have come from continuing your education?

Rachel: I believe that there have been many positive outcomes as a result of continuing my education. Taking courses related to assertiveness was an important step in my personal growth as they helped me build confidence in myself and my abilities. These courses, combined with other courses in communication and management skills, have helped me land my dream job on a cruise ship. I have been a Youth Counsellor for almost two years now. I'm inspired by my experience with continuing education to take more courses and apply for advancement within the company.

How were you able to fit the course-work into your day-to-day life?

Julia: I was able to set time aside weekly to complete my course work. At the same time, I didn't have to worry if something came up and I was unable to complete it as planned. I was able to change my schedule accordingly. I always tried to schedule my course work at the same time and not leave it until the last minute.

If you could share advice with others considering Conestoga's ed2go courses, what would it be? Julia: Online education is affordable. It offers you a variety of classes at a variety of levels. It is convenient, yet challenging, and has courses that are applicable to everyday life.

Do you plan on furthering your development by enrolling in other part-time, online courses with Conestoga?

Rachel and Julia: Definitely.

Education Builds Opportunity

After sustaining a workplace accident in 2009, Mark Klein-Geltink was forced to take his career in a new direction. That's when he turned to Conestoga's Continuing Education. Mark has previously obtained a Bachelor of Arts in Business, and knew that furthering his education would open new doors by allowing him to specialize.

Mark is now a graduate of Conestoga's part-time Human Resources Management program and is currently studying in the Occupational Health and Safety program.

"I knew that these certificates, accompanied by my past work experience in construction and manufacturing, would make me an excellent addition to many workplaces."

Describe your pathway to Conestoga.

While working for a construction company, I sustained a workplace injury that forced me to change my career path. Through various job searches, I saw the opportunities that could result from obtaining certification in Human Resources. I also knew an instructor in the Occupational Health & Safety program who encouraged me to try Human Resouces. I particularly enjoyed the Occupational Health & Safety Legislation course within the program, and realized that I wanted to focus on health and safety. That's why I decided to continue my studies after I completed the HR Management program.Thumbnail image for coned cover.jpg

What would you describe as some of the strengths you found in the programs?

The flexibility of taking the courses during the evenings and in different semesters made completing the program manageable even with my work, family and volunteer obligations. The instructors are the heart of the program. Every course I've completed in the Occupational Health & Safety program had an instructor with extensive real-life experience in the field. The "hands-on" learning is a strength as well: being able to go to workplaces to see their procedures and practices, and using the same equipment in the classroom that would be used in the field makes a real difference.

What positive outcomes have come from continuing your education?

The Human Resources Management program helped me land a job in a new field, and completing the OHS certificate will allow me to earn a significant raise. Continuing my education through Conestoga gave me the skills, knowledge and confidence I needed to better assist my clients and move from a Junior Consultant position to a Health & Safety Consultant role. Both programs provided me with crucial networking opportunities. I have met many students and instructors who I continue to associate with both personally and professionally.

How were you able to fit the course work into your day-to-day life?

Life is busy for everyone, but taking one evening course per semester made the work manageable. I try to give 100 per cent in everything I do. Taking courses while being a father, husband and employee has proven to be challenging but very rewarding at the same time. Somenights I've stayed up late studying, and some weekends I've chosen to stay in to finishan assignment rather than go out. Overall however, I haven't needed to make too many sacrifices to manage my course requirements while working full-time and spending quality time with my family. Time management and organization have been essential, but with a little hard work anything is possible.

If you could share advice with others considering this course, what would it be?

Do it! You'll see how relevant it is. You can immediately apply it to your current place of work, or see how it fits with past employment. Soak up the wealth of knowledge from the instructors and use the opportunity to tap into their experience.

Do you plan on furthering your development by enrolling in other part-time courses with Conestoga?

After completing my OHS certificate, I'll be taking a little break. But there's always more to learn, and I can see myself enrolling in more Occupational Health & Safety related courses in the near future.

From Passion to Profession

After years of riding, repairing and building bikes as a hobby, Steve Hunter had a vision for launching a new type of business where he could use his knowledge and passion for cycling to improve social equity and give back to his community. He looked to Conestoga to provide the training he needed to support his vision, and a new business was born. Switchback Cyclery, opened in 2013 with support provided by the Toronto Enterprise Fund, provides high quality bikes, accessories and repair services for the Toronto community. Operated under the umbrella of the Sanctuary Ministries of Toronto, the business is also a sustainable social enterprise that provides employment for some of the community's marginalized members as part of its mission.

"We offer employees a simple friendship and a chance to rediscover the joy and dignity that comes from having a meaningful and purposeful occupation," said Steve, who manages Switchback Cyclery with his business partner Cynthia Leung.

We recently had the opportunity to speak with Steve about the Conestoga training he received through the Winterborne Bicycle Institute, and how it has supported his vision for giving back to the community.ce-winter.jpg

Describe what led you to Conestoga, and what inspired you to further your education through the Winterborne course?

I was looking for a good quality training course that would more than just fill the gaps in my experience repairing and maintaining bicycles. I wanted to partner with a school that had ongoing education and one that was accessible to our staff at Switchback Cyclery, each of whom has had their own struggle in the area of employment and training.  Winterborne provided all that I was looking for as well as a good relational foundation making the interface between training and work, teaching and experience very accessible.

What would you describe as some of the strengths you found in the course?

The course was very informative and hands-on.  The teaching was thorough and logical.  When asked, the teaching staff were able to go deeper with explanations about specific products or processes. They were very willing to engage in deeper discussions beyond the curriculum to aid in the students understanding.  The facility is well-equipped, well-lit and comfortable, allowing the class to work easily without crowding or waiting for a specific tool.

How has your experience at Conestoga benefited your career development?

I use the material on an almost daily basis both for my own work and for teaching our staff. I have applied so much of what I have learned that I can't imagine operating a shop without the training.

What would you tell others who are considering coming into this course at Conestoga?

Book the time and spend the money! In my experience, it is the premiere teaching facility and faculty for bicycle repair and maintenance in Ontario.

If you could share advice with others considering this course, what would it be?

Block the time out on your calendar so you can absorb all of what is being offered. Don't try to go home and catch up on work after a day of school. You will need the evenings for reading and studying.

Do you plan on furthering your development by enrolling in other part-time courses with Conestoga?

There are still more bicycle related courses I need to take and beyond that there is always room for learning around business management and retailing. My idea is to keep learning as long as I'm breathing.

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